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Just announced: Edward II, 23rd April.

Edward II

23 April / 19:30 / More Info / Buy Tickets

Take a regular English country band, add a reggae rhythm section, sweet vocal harmonies, blistering brass and scattergun melodeon and you have the phenomena that is Edward II. Throughout the ‘00s they astounded fans with their hyper-active live shows including headlining Glastonbury’s Avalon stage a record four years running.

Splicing dance tunes of old England with the sunny sexy grooves of reggae and lovers’ rock, Edward II transcend superficial notions of “crossover” to forge a truly original synthesis from their far-flung musical roots. Featuring a seven-piece line up that saw melodeon and sax, fiddle and trombone nestling snugly cheek-by-jowl, their repertoire strolled expansively from reworked folk standards like “Wild Mountain Thyme” or “La Russe” to Caribbean classics like Gregory Isaacs “Night Nurse”. They have been long renowned as one of the freshest, funkiest acts on the circuit, they sent crowds from Shetland to Sri Lanka, Brazil to Bangladesh into a jigging, skanking frenzy with their superlative live shows.

Emerging initially as a loose, fluid collective – a self styled “mutant calypso/reggae/African style English dance band” – from the vibrant roots melting-pot of Cheltenham’s Victory Club during the mid-80’s, the band (then called Edward II and the Red Hot Polkas) firmed up personnel and shifted emphasis a few years later, establishing the twin poles of their sound in the Morris-flavoured traditions of rural Oxfordshire, and the dynamic dub-reggae scene of Manchester’s Moss Side. From there, whilst the unique dual core developed into an instantly irresistible signature, the band roamed freely and fruitfully over the expanse of new territory their music opened up, bringing in dashes of jazz, soul, rap, and Celtic dancing styles, all laced with Glenn Latouche’s seductively honeyed lead vocals. By finding the shared dancing pulse in the diverse beats they bring together, EII deliver both a genuinely innovative fusion and a brilliantly redoubled attack.

Just announced: XFM First Friday ft. Jon McClure, The Slow Readers Club + Tim Cocker & Hattie Pearson, 5th December.

XFM First Friday ft. Jon McClure, The Slow Readers Club + Tim Cocker & Hattie Pearson

05 December / 21:00 / More Info / Buy Tickets

The Slow Readers Club are a Manchester based indie / electro band who’s output ranges from insanely catchy upbeat indie to angry, introspective downbeat and beautiful ballads. Their music has drawn comparisons with Interpol, The Killers and Arcade Fire.

This month’s special guest DJ is the ‘Rev’ himself, Jon McClure,  frontman of Sheffield’s Reverend & the Makers. With a huge record collection you can be sure of a he’ll provide plenty of tunes from ska and reggae classics, new releases and indie and guitar bangers. Jon is known for his on-stage banter and impromptu sing-a-longs, so who knows what else will happen!

And of course, XFM DJs Tim and Hattie will be providing music that rocks until the early hours; from game-changing classic anthems to new talent such as Peace, Jake Bugg and Foals, you’re guaranteed to be dancing to the very best rock, indie and alternative music spanning both time and genre.

Just announced: Meshell Ndegeocello, 19th May

Meshell Ndegeocello

19 May / 19:30 / More Info / Tickets on sale 9am, Monday

An authentic musical thinker and an uncompromising artist, Meshell Nedegeocello continues to discover, examine and explore all that music has to offer her, and how she can return the gift.

Groove driven, infectiously melodic and lyrically meditative, Meshell’s latest album, Comet, Come To Me, finds her returning to the same well of creativity that launched her career. Her 11th release, it is possibly a culmination of all previous work: lush, vocal, seeking, wise, collaborative, and driven by the signature bounce and precise pocket of Ndegeocello on bass.

A vast array of influences have informed all of Meshell’s albums, and there are traces of her native go-go, hip hop, R&B, new wave and punk in each. Each album has been a step away from the last, each used as a chance to investigate and integrate new sounds and ideas, and fans have been treated to everything from the deep-funk of Plantation Lullabies to the raw and confessional Bitter to the melodic, lyrical Weather. Possessed with instrumental gifts as diverse as her interests, Meshell composed, arranged and produced a jazz record in 2005. Her most last release paid homage to Nina Simone, a kindred musical spirit and among Meshell’s most cherished inspirations.

A bass player above all else, Meshell brings her warm, fat, and melodic groove to everything she does and has appeared alongside the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, James Blood Ulmer, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston, and Chaka Khan. As for her own bass-playing influences, she credits Sting, Jaco Pastorius, Family Man Barrett, and Stevie Wonder. Meshell was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Bass Player magazine and remains one of few women who write the music, sing the songs, and lead the band.

Just announced: Womenfolk 2015 ft. Kathryn Williams, Maz O’Connor & Georgia Ruth, February 2015.

Womenfolk 2015 ft. Kathryn Williams, Maz O’Connor & Georgia Ruth

05 February / Manchester - Band on the Wall

06 February / Stockton - ARC

07 February / Clitheroe - The Grand

13 February / Barrow-in-Furness - The Forum

14 February / Barton-upon-Humber - The Ropewalk

Womenfolk returns with another triple bill featuring three of the UK’s of outstanding female singer-songwriters.

Since her self financed debut in 2000 Kathryn Williams has released 10 critically acclaimed studio albums that have quietly established her as one the truly distinctive voices of UK music.

She will be joined by two relative newcomers who’ve spent 2014 garnering critical acclaim and new fans:

Welsh harpist and singer Georgia Ruth, described as ‘one of British folk’s discoveries of the year” by The Guardian, won the 2013 Welsh Music Prize and was nominated for two 2014 BB Folk Awards.

Maz O’ Connor, who’s second album ‘Willowed Light’ was described by The Observer as ‘Folk album of the year thus far’, mixes traditional and self penned songs combining gorgeous melodies and exquisite vocals.

Just announced: Stefan Grossman, 12th April.

Stefan Grossman

12 April / 19:30 / More Info / Buy Tickets

If you play acoustic blues guitar, chances are you learned something from Stefan Grossman, either directly or indirectly. His family derives from Hungary and his name translates as “Great man”, and in this case you can take it literally.

One simply cannot talk about people of importance to this genre without tipping the hat to the most masterful musician, teacher, musicologist, producer, folklorist and preservationist of the traditional blues. By now, Stefan Grossman is a venerated, iconoclastic and respected acoustic blues figure of mega-proportions. He came out of the vibrant Greenwich Village, New York, 1960s scene around Washington Square, where so many American folk and blues musicians launched their careers. His friend and occasional collaborator, Steve Katz, formerly of the Even Dozen Jug Band, the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, once half jokingly told this writer: “There we were, all these New York Jews playing the black blues.” Indeed, the blues had a strong influence on young New Yorkers during the folk revival. These musicians, Stefan Grossman, Happy & Artie Traum, Danny Kalb, and many others, in turn had a powerful influence on the acceptance of the blues by the American baby boomer generation at large; and, they significantly helped to launch the folk, roots & blues revival, thereby reinvigorating the careers of many original blues musicians whose careers had waned.

He has many dozens of superlative albums out, encompassing a vast collection of traditional blues songs. He recorded with Paul Simon, John Fahey, Charlie Musselwhite, and Happy Traum. He was heavily involved with with Shanachie Records of Newton, NJ, recording Shining Shadows (1988), Guitar Landscapes (1990), Love, Devils & the Blues (1992), Northern Skies, Southern Blues (1997), and Shake That Thing: Fingerpicking Country Blues (1998) for the label. He also helped Shanachie launch their Guitar Artistry imprint series.

Indeed, when it comes to keeping the blues alive, vibrant and exciting, there are few people who can claim such an overall prolific body of work as Stefan Grossman.

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